Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Liverpool was a fine demonstration of how Jurgen Klopp built his unstoppable side. The Reds are now 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Everyone knows how Liverpool want to play. They want to come up against a high-line in an open game where Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane can run onto balls in behind.
It’s a simple way to play and an incredibly effective one when you have two of the world’s best wingers. Only no one actually lets Liverpool play like that. As with all top sides, opposition teams set themselves up to prevent the preferred way of playing.
You need a fall-back plan and Liverpool have just that. As teams sit back and stay compact, they allow space for full-backs. Liverpool are happy with that, though, as they’ve built a way of playing around the two most creative full-backs in the world right now.
That’s their established way of playing. It’s not as simple as pinging balls to Mane and Salah, no, but it’s the way they have to play most games. And it’s very effective.
You need that. You need to have that way of playing that you use in most games as teams simply don’t let you play the way you want to. Manchester United are a fine example of how important it is – teams don’t let them play on the counter and they struggle without a backup plan. United only thrive against teams that allow them to play on the counter.
What we saw against Tottenham was Jose Mourinho setting up his side to stop both of Liverpool’s plans. Firstly, they sat very deep and limited the ball in behind. So far, so very normal.
But he also attempted to negate the full-backs. Mourinho deployed Serge Aurier on the right in a type of 4-4-2 and asked him to constantly track Andy Robertson. Then he filled the left with attacking players to overwhelm Trent Alexander-Arnold.
And it worked for the most part. Alexander-Arnold rarely threatened, while Robertson could only find space on the counter. But Tottenham also showed why Liverpool are unstoppable under Klopp.
To do everything they wanted to do, Mourinho used a 4-4-2. He then had Aurier ignoring the shape to keep an eye on Robertson. That left space in between the midfield and defence – space Liverpool could exploit.
Roberto Firmino is a ‘False 9’ who very rarely gets to actually play like one. Teams limit space with three-man midfields and deep lines so he usually ends up focusing on defensive work and playing as a traditional number 9.
But Tottenham, in trying to stop the usual Liverpool methods, unleashed Firmino. He spent the game finding space, linking the attack and driving his team forward. He scored the winner, too, of course.
And it goes to show just what Liverpool have under Klopp. They’re unbelievably versatile and can do it without changing players around – it’s all from their starting XI. It makes them near-impossible to stop when they’re at their best.